Firstco oversees HEx Optical Transport Network upgrade

From: Firstco
Published: Mon Nov 19 2007

Firstco, the technical consultancy, project management and systems integration specialists, have recently completed an upgrade to the Heathrow Express (HEx) Optical Transport Network (OTN) system.

The OTN system carries all of Heathrow Express’s data and communication links and the loss of any part of the system would have a dramatic effect on their operations. However this improvement in communication efficiency was carried out without any disruption to HEx’s operations.

Firstco’s Project Manager, Cecile Searle, explained: "The project involved upgrading the OTN system - the primary means of transporting voice and data communications (including security) around the various HEx demises from Terminal 4 and Heathrow Central Stations all the way into Paddington.

"The OTN system allows different types of media to be transported over long distances via a dual fibre-optic backbone ring. At each point of input or output along the route, such as at stations and shafts, there are devices, known as nodes, which multiplex the signals onto the fibre backbone."

In total, the system has 19 nodes located throughout the stations, tunnels and platform areas.

The fibre backbone ring is constructed in such a way that it allows communications to reroute should there be a break in one of the primary fibres.

The existing system had limitations on available bandwidth and with the introduction of more and more IP based products it was necessary to significantly increase the bandwidth capability. Firstco specified the Siemens OTN 600 product for the upgrade project.

In order to minimise risk and potential disruption, all of the works had to be carried out during engineering hours, between 00:30 and 04:30. Such short working periods meant that the whole process had to be meticulously planned to ensure all systems were fully re-established at the end of each shift.
Steve Chambers, Head of Service Proposition at Heathrow Express said: "Reliable and up-to-the minute data and communication links are the backbone of Heathrow Express’ successful operation.

"This important project had the potential to cause massive disruption to the Heathrow Express service. However the expertise and dedication of the Firstco team meant that work went without a hitch."

The change out process involved the establishment of a new backbone ring supporting the new OTN 600.

Once this system had been installed and commissioned the task of migrating the numerous services onto the new system could begin. These works which included migration of critical services such as Fire, PA /VA, CCTV, tunnel emergency systems, voice and data systems, were then completed over a number of nights until all services had been established onto the new system.

The benefits of the new system include:
• The high bandwidth makes possible many extra services including Ethernet and video, with new interfaces which were not previously supported.
• In addition to operational systems, customer features such as WiFi can be provided – from Heathrow to Paddington - to further enhance the travelling experience.
• Ongoing development means that the OTN600’s facilities will continue to be extended and updated.
• Using modern technology and components will keep the product current.
• Additional nodes and interfaces are available for future system expansion.


Notes for Editors:

About the Open Transport Network (OTN) system

The OTN system allows different types of media – voice and data communications, including control, information and security and CCTV - to be transported over long distances via a fibre backbone. At each point of input or output there are devices known as Nodes which multiplex the various signals onto the fibre backbone. The fibre backbone is constructed in a ring arrangement that allows the communications to reroute should there be a break in one of the primary fibres.

The OTN36 was the first generation in the OTN family, developed by Siemens. Demands for more bandwidth and support for additional interface types have prompted newer OTN products. This project upgraded the OTN36 to the OTN600, which has a much higher backbone bandwidth (600Mbps) as well as the ability to deliver more data to individual nodes.

About Firstco

Established in 1998, Firstco is now a major force in the areas of technical consultancy, project management and systems integration. Working in a range of industries – notably transport, especially rail installations and airports; power and construction – Firstco specialises in controls and communication solutions for assignments of all sizes from buildings through to large scale infrastructure projects, including sub-surface railways and airports.

Firstco’s in-house team includes specialists in: systems engineering, software engineering, control room integration, consulting, project management and commissioning management.
Through its core services of consultancy, system delivery and project management, Firstco provides its clients with a total solution - from concept to commissioning and maintenance, based on collaboration and integration with clients and partners.

Its mission is to advise, deliver and support high quality control and communications solutions that improve transport and workplace environments, create value for clients and make a positive difference to their end users.

Firstco’s approach is based on four core values:

• Service Excellence - achieving client confidence by truly understanding the business drivers and the project requirements, delivering the agreed solution to plan, managing issues and communicating clearly and regularly - while being easy to do business with and enjoyable to work with.
• Integrity - applying professional and technical expertise to ensure the right solution for the right reasons, as well as being open, honest and fair in all of its dealings.
• Teamwork - deploying the right blend of talent and experience to get the job done, and integrating effectively with client and third party personnel and activities.
• Development - continually seeking to enhance its own capabilities and processes, enabling it to remain innovative and challenging - and sharing this with its clients.

Firstco’s clients include: BAA Heathrow Airport; Esso Petroleum; Heathrow Express Operating Company; London Underground; Standard Life Assurance; Morgan Stanley; Arup Associates; Balfour Kilpatrick; Siemens; EdF; Mott MacDonald; Scott Wilson, Crown House (Carillion), and Transmanche Link.

Further information from:
David Bligh / Rupert Exham, Firstco, 0207 034 0833;
Bob Little, Bob Little Press & PR, 01727 860405

Company: Firstco
Contact Name: Bob Little
Contact Email:
Contact Phone: 00 44 (0) 1727 860405

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